Careful there voters! You can’t return the Boogieman like an unwanted Christmas present, you know! But Unca John can keep your economy safe…why won’t you trust me?

Now our Prime Minister is treating voters like heedless children who simply haven’t thought carefully enough about what change might mean.

Mr Howard says there is always a risk with changing Government.

And he warns voters flirting with the idea that a Labor election victory is not like an unwanted Christmas present, that can be returned on Boxing Day.

“It’s not like that. It’s much harder than that,” he said.


How insulting.

If you read Tony Abbott in today’s SMH, it’s more of the same – this utter disbelief that the voters could possibly have a mind at odds with the wishes of the current government, and that any voters who are thinking of voting the Coalition out of office have simply overlooked the bleeding obvious about how hopeless, scary and ruinacious a Rudd government will be. The title condescends from the start: The goods or a gamble?

Something unprecedented will happen on Saturday. A highly effective government will lose despite generally good economic circumstances or 12 months of opinion polls will turn out to be wrong. Australians are not reckless gamblers, at least not with the future of their country, so I think it’s much more likely voters will prove the polls wrong than change the government.

Patronising shite.

Hugh Mackay, talking on ABC Radio with Virginia Trioli this morning, made some excellent points which I found largely persuasive. He argues that until this year, the Australian electorate has been largely disengaged from politics for a decade, and that this is a situation which has suited the Coalition better, because disengaged voters tend to largely follow only their hip pocket nerve for short-term gains, don’t examine scaremongering skeptically, and have been willing to stick with the Coalition along “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” lines. But once voters do become more generally engaged with politics, they doubt the fear campaigns, they look beyond just the economy and beyond the short term, and that’s where the progressive parties have their strength (noting that Labor is not always a progressive party).

Workchoices has brought consideration to everyone of the way that industrial regulation legislation affects the balance of negotiating power between employees and employers, and the majority seem to find that the Coalition’s ideology in this area makes them apprehensive for the future of themselves, their families and their communities, even if right now it may not have harmed them (or may even have slightly benefited them) financially. Many voters seem particularly keen to end the Liberal majority in the Senate above all else, so that more IR bills cannot just be driven through to legislation without proper review.

The issue of climate change has made a lot of voters take a more long-term look at the likely consequences of continuing with “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” don’t-change-the-government scaremongering, and although it has been relegated largely to the background of this campaign this issue appears to be a major instigator of swings away from the Coalition – they are not trusted to put long-term environmental issues over the short-term profit margins of their mates in big business.

Then there’s the war: it hasn’t loomed large this campaign, and Howard seized the chance yesterday to present that datum as an implicit endorsement of the Coalition’s policy with respect to the Coalition of the Willing.

Defence and national security have not been high profile issues during the campaign and Mr Howard says that is partly because Labor has not had the ammunition to attack the Coalition.

“The Labor Party realises that there has been some improvement – not a big improvement but some improvement – in the security situation in Iraq,” he said.

“I think that is something that has meant that the Labor Party doesn’t feel it is politically expedient to talk about it.”

Howard has got that particular indicator badly wrong. Expedience is part of the Labor party’s strategy in not using Iraq as a major issue this campaign, but it hasn’t been for lack of ammunition. Labor has refused to be wedged on the issue, that’s all, so there haven’t been any big headlines. Again, it’s an issue that has pushed the swinging voters away from the Coalition, and it’s not because they haven’t thought hard about their reasons for mistrusting Howard et al in this area.

Finally, another issue which has been largely ignored this election campaign, yet which also does not mean that people don’t have ammunition to fling against the government on it: the NT “intervention” aka invasion and recolonisation. Yet another issue that has made many swinging voters turn away from the Coalition and to the minor parties, which realistically means that most of their preferences will flow to Labor in the Lower House.

None of these swings reflect simple boredom and a thoughtless yearning for change as the PM and Abbott are saying. They are a matter of passionate revulsion in most cases, and the recent onset of a broad understanding (due to recent interest rate rises) that no Australian government actually has that much control over an economy which is driven by foreign demand for our minerals and a few other primary products, therefore the economy scaremongering is irrelevant.

The rusted on supporters of the major parties haven’t changed their opinions or voting intentions much since 2004. It’s the swinging voters who have done so, and the Coalition has no idea about how to woo them back. The advertising blackout starts this evening too. Hooray!

crossposted at Hoyden About Town


writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic |

Posted in environment, federal election '07, Howardia, indigenous, War
26 comments on “Careful there voters! You can’t return the Boogieman like an unwanted Christmas present, you know! But Unca John can keep your economy safe…why won’t you trust me?
  1. David Rubie says:

    Hugh Mackay probably knows a lot more than me about voting intentions, but I don’t understand the reasoning behind labelling votors as disengaged for the last 10 years. I think they were very engaged – look at how effective those scare campaigns were. It might be the case that they weren’t evaluated critically, I’m not sure anybody had the time to pontificate to any great extent when bombs were going off in major population centres. Some people were genuinely scared of those things and why not? Modern life in the western world is so safe that it takes genuinely weird, out of left field events to get us to face any kind of mortality not involving old age or pets, yet nightly television exposes us to mass carnage on a scale and with such regularity that we become somewhat inured to it unless we see familiar landmarks. Bombs in Baghdad are ho hum, but buildings falling down in New York are very engaging indeed.

    It isn’t engagement that has turned opinion, it’s exposure. We’ve all had far more time to evaluate the risks and decided they are minimal and our governments were, in fact, making them worse. The voters have had lots of time to evaluate Howard on his various initial election promises (his initial proposition was to slow economic reform down), and he finally tipped over the edge from normal politician (i.e. can’t always trust him) to arrogant (can’t ever trust him). It was a slow process, but he engineered his own demise.

    I’d be interested to see post-polling on attitudes to Workchoices for example. My personal belief is that it wasn’t so much the legislation that caused the problem, it was the way it was delivered. We leftish people might be appalled at it, but that doesn’t explain why a majority of the population find it such a vote changer.

    I don’t think the passionate revulsion I feel for Howard is reflected that much in the community at large, and I’d probably be just as perplexed as Abbott about the slowly changing intention of voters since 2004. Mind you, if I was Abbott I’d probably be perplexed about the world at large, all the time, since I’d be so out of step with it 🙂

  2. Bruce says:

    I’m amazed, somebody actually read Tony Abbott’s article. I got so sick of the constant lies from government ministers that I simply closed my eyes and ears to what the have to say years ago.

  3. Bruce says:

    “…until this year, the Australian electorate has been largely disengaged from politics for a decade, and that this is a situation which has suited the Coalition better…”

    You’ve just stumbled on what ‘relaxed and comfortable’ really means. It means Howard wants us all to stay out of politics, enjoy the bread and circuses, and let the government get on with its agenda.

  4. The Liberal governement’s difficulty in trying to woo back its voters is the same difficulty of an abusive marriage partner trying to woo back his (or her) estranged other. The voice of the abuser is just no longer so appealing as it once was.

  5. Katz says:

    Something unprecedented will happen on Saturday. A highly effective government will lose

    Shorter Abbott: “I’ve run out of credible lies.”

    Even shorter Abbott: “Can we blame Ratty yet?”

  6. Paul Burns says:

    Your analysis is excellent.
    Of course one of JWH’s problems is that when he opens his mouth the majority of voters think he’s lying. I don’t know when this happened, when the cxhange came from ‘it’s just a porkie’ to ‘its an unforgiveable lie.” Don’t have a clue. It might have been the rubbish with interest rates at the last election, but I actually suspect it might have been before then. The ALP didn’t lose the last
    federal election – Latham did. People wanted Howard gone, but the ALP hadn’t provided them with an acceptable alternative leader.
    There’s also that thing about decency. David Williamson may have been the first person to put it into words, but it was a way of thinking a lot of people were experiencing, even if they couldn’t quite phrase it.
    Of course, the potential or actual unfairness of Workchoices helped that perception a lot.
    Naturally, Howard and his cronies are the last to see it. They all believe, more so than the rest of us, that they’re God’s Gift to Australia.But being God’d Gift to Australia is like being God’s Gift to Women. You’re the only one who thinks so, and everybody alse, at best, thinks you’re a bit strange. or at worst, views you with distaste.

  7. Kymbos says:

    I actually think Hugh Mackay is perhaps the most insightful commentator on elections, and he doesn’t get as much exposure as he should. Last election he popped into the 7:30 Report to say that voters had already decided that the Government would be returned, several weeks before the polling day and before Latham imploded. He told Kerry that the reason the MSM is calling it as close is because if they didn’t, no one would pay attention to them. I haven’t seen him on there since…

    Does anyone have a weblink to a transcript of today’s interview, or a podcast?

  8. Stephen Bayne says:


    That is exactly how I see it. If Australia re-elects Howard it will only be because they are now (though some would say have been for a while) part of an abusive relationship.

  9. amused says:

    David Rubie is right. There is no general revulsion for Howard out there, in the way that many people posting here feel about him. But there is a complete distrust of anything he says, and an unsentimental view that it is time his mob were ‘benched’ for a while.

    They are going to be ‘benched’.

    While Hugh McKay is a thoughful person, I think, with the greatest respect, that people are no more engaged now than they ever were, except on issues where everybody claims some expertise (their own views on rights and responisbilities in the workplace for example). On issues that most people can’t claim expertise in, they will tend to give authority the benefit of the doubt-at first. This is not being stupid or sheeplike, it is something we all do when faced with something we are not sure about (think plumbers giving advice on sewer blockages for example). I for one, am not inclined to argue when faced with a recommendation on a suitbale course of action on that topic!

    After 11 years however, people are now familiar with the old ‘bait and switch’ tactics, and are now alert to the tricks and spin of this government. It will take time for them to become alert to the next government’s tricks and spin. In the meantime, they believe they can’t afford another term of a government that can’t be trusted not to come after them again with baseball bats, if the economy turns a little sour.

    Howard’s big mistake was to assume people would trust him when the economy is uncertain, because they believe he a terrific economic manager.

    Costello crying ‘economic tsunami’ ahead was a big mistake. To the extent that people believe he might be right, why would they trust him to look after them, particularly after Workchoices, particulalry when it has been made abundantly clear, it will not be Howard carrying that can, but Costello himself?

  10. Kymbos says:

    I think Hugh’s onto something. I think Howard was voted in to give us a break from the serious economic reform of the 80s and 90s. As long as he didn’t rock the economic boat, people wouldn’t kick him out. Well, that is no longer the case. I can see that as a ‘re-engagement’ of sorts. The economic story is good enough, but people want more.

  11. Andyc says:

    Sorry <b.TT – I’ve posted this on href=””>Anon Lefty already, but I can’t resist. The meme must be spread.

    shorty Ratty:

    “A Government is for life, not just for Christmas!”

  12. Andyc says:

    Oops – sorry about the HTML tag mess. Not sure where those missing brackets went. They were there, I’m sure!

  13. Sir Henry Casingbroke says:

    I don’t know that Hugh has any evidence to support his opinion. It’s kind of half right, because WorkChoices has concentrated many few minds now. What Hugh didn’t mention is the high component of punters who gave Howard their vote that would have once been natural Labor supporters – we’re talking Democrats for Reagan, Howard’s Battlers kind of people, for whom the dog whistle sounded loud and clear and they stampeded accordingly. Now they are coming home. The cry, once too often, from the $mirker that they have never had it so good made them reach for their wallet, examine its contents carefully then look up in amazement and ask “Where is mine?”

    The gravy train has left the station with fewer than half the people aboard, thus spelling doom for the Howardistas. Ain’t democracy grand?

  14. Katz says:

    Would Howard’s customary “cleverness” have alienated the marginal voter if WorkChoices never existed?

    I think not. This assertion cannot be proven of course. Nevertheless, the coincidence between the Coalition’s dive in the polls and the debate over WorkChoices is persuasive, without being conclusive.

    Another factor in the Labor recovery was the crashing and burning of Mark Latham. Latham rendered Labor unelectable in 2004, yet the electorate punished Labor only on the modest, Australian scale of electoral punishment — 54% – 46% TPP. There are parties in other countries who’d regard 46% support for the losing candidate as very close.

    Seen in those terms, with the worst possible leader at the helm in 2004, Labor did not have much ground to make up.

    And WorkChoices has done the trick.

    Howard’s mendacity, always known but never acknowledged as toxic by the marginal voter, has simply served to strengthen the resolve of the small number of swingers to punish Howard for his threatening IR laws.

    Suffer, Johnny.

  15. mbahnisch says:

    It was more like 53-47, wasn’t it, Katz?

    That’s where I always think the “as I move around the country, I don’t see any baseball bats out” claim goes wrong. For a start, how many disaffected voters bother to talk to their Liberal MP? And secondly, as I’ve been fond of saying ever since the 04 election, if you lined up 47 people on one side of a room and 53 on the other, you’d be hard pressed as an observer to tell immediately which was the bigger group. Statistically, almost one in two people you meet in a marginal electorate is going to be on your side in the end.

  16. snorky says:

    It was 52.7 – 47.3 Mark, which supports your point.

    Kymbos is right in recalling Mackay’s accurate predictions 3 years ago. I read something he wrote about a month out from the election saying that his research indicated that it wouldn’t even be close, which demoralised me greatly at the time. But of course he was right.

    So I guess his analysis this time shouldn’t be lightly dismissed, although like some others, I’m not totally sold on his theory that people have somehow become engaged over the past 3 years.

    A couple of other points that ought to be corrected. Latham didn’t so spectacularly implode until after the 2004 election. Had he done so before it, it’s hardly likely that he would have got even the 37.6% of the primary vote that he did. My point is that many voters circa 2004 were still voting for Howard, rather than against Latham, so it’s no simple task to explain what’s changed so apparently radically since then.

    I suspect that a really informed analysis will have to wait until after the dust has settled following Saturday’s festivities.

  17. Ambigulous says:

    Her Majesty’s Vessel Menzies.
    Orders of the day for Thursday 22nd Nov.

    Register of Officers’ Perquisites will be open for the next two days. Capt recommends the new Perqu Choices scheme, including the recent Fair Wind test.

    Cdr Bishop reported Jolly Roger flying from stern: to be removed forthwith.

    All hammocks to be dismantled and stowed by 2pm Sat 24th.

    Quartermaster will personally auditall small items inc nails, bolts, string, ropes, boards, hooks, plates, cutlery, cutlasses, mugs, cigarillos, grapefruit, breadfruit, etc

    Final Rehearsal by Ship’s Band and Ship’s Choir of hymns, airs, laments & dirges: 11 forenoon to 3 of afternoon.

    Navigator to check chronometer, currently reads “1955”.

    All sharp objects must be vouchsafed into Large Barrel before commencement of Capt’s Farewell Dinner, 5pm Sat 24th.

    Stout hearts not Stout bellies, lads!
    Every cloud has a silver bullet.
    The Viscount is with us yet.
    We shall o’er prevail.

    Omnnia Vincit Aurum

  18. SJ says:

    I think Kymbos #10 is right and Katz #14 wrong, at least from the 3rd para onwards.

    Katz, I know that it’s conventional wisdom that Latham was crap, but I don’t think that’s the real reason for the election loss. The reason that Latham got to be oppo leader in the first place was that polling indicated that Crean was unelectable. Latham was doing fine until the Labor Party decided to do an internal reconciliation and do the me too, or small target strategy that had failed Beazley before. Latham could have won if he’d continued to differentiate himself from Howard, rather than do the “me too”.

    Rudd will win this time because another organisation related to but separate from the parliamentary Labor Party had the balls to stand up to the party and its stupid, stupid, stupid advisors.

  19. frodo441 says:

    Irregardless, those bloats aren’t good enough for eighteenth century literature…
    Looks like it’s coming down to Kierkegaard…

  20. grace pettigrew says:

    Perhaps the ALP missed the best slogan for the campaign: “Change the government, change the country”. I found it amusing that they were almost the last words that Howard uttered on his ABC 7.30 Report interview the other night, and that he was actually quoting Keating. Howard has spent a decade in a vengeful crusade to erase any last trace of Keating (including in his first year abolishing “Working Nation”, so that we now have a critical trades shortage, for example), and at the very last moment he was left quoting his most hated political opponent. As a slogan for the ALP, it might have read, “Change the government, change the country, yes, its time” (even reprising Whitlam too). Ah well, no matter, its all over bar the shouting.

  21. Mindy says:

    I haven’t asked why, but the attitude of my Mum and Stepdad (baby boomer and just older than baby boomer) has changed markedly from the 2004 election. Last time they were happy Howard voters, but in the intervening years something has changed and they are not happy John anymore.

  22. […] of the horse race could be deepened – by understanding more about the mood of the country, something Hugh Mackay, for instance, tries to do. As I wrote in New Matilda: But you also need, for instance, to discount headline claims about […]

  23. Ambigulous says:

    Her Majest’s Vessel Menzies
    Orders for the day: Friday 23rd Nov [& Sat 24th]

    Crew are asked not to weep in sleeping quarters; swabbing is taking too long every morn.

    Ship’s cat is now stalking the very larg’st Rodent.

    As some Crew will not be with the Vessel on its next voyage, Cap’t extends Insincere Thanks, chuckles as He Watches you all Farewell the Old Tub; Bonhomie was Never so Forced.

    If Cap’t slaps You on Back, you must not Spring Back with Tortured Grimace; rather take it like a Spartan.

    Any other Crew considering Trying Hand at Pamphleteering: don’t !!

    We Sail into a red, red Sunset.

    Forecast ill winds or no winds for Sat 24th. Crew to remain Calm while Becalmed.

    Reminder for Boy: 3 pr brown trousers for Cap’t, 9am, correctly Pressed and Wholly cleaned since former incidents.

    It is a Far, Far Better Thing We Do, than We have Ever Done; it’s a Far Far Better Place We Go To Than We’ve Ever Been.

    Stand Tall and Firm, Lads!!

    As Cap’t Raleigh said when he Strok’d the Axe Blade: “‘Tis a Sharp Physick, but It is a Physician for All Diseases and Miseries!”

    Would that We shall Shew like Courage.

  24. jo says:

    thanks Ambigulous – i hope you dont mind, but i’ve gathered up all of the daily orders from the Menzies, and have emailed them to some non-bloggie friends, to enjoy as well.

  25. Ambigulous says:

    why thank you ma’m,or sir, i trust your non-bloggie friends will feel on their virtual faces the cool sea breezes and the tang of a keel-hauled miscreant or two

    Stand Firm!

  26. haiku says:

    Devine pere
    and fille are deeply unhappy at the prospect of a Rudd victory. No stronger endorsement is required!

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